The Apostle Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 1:15-23 is intriguing. According to English Standard Version, these nine verses make two sentences. However, taking verses 22 and 23 as another dependent clause following the “when” of verse 20, the nine verses make only one running sentence. Because this sentence is so long and its structure is very complicated, it is not easy to get what the prayer’s main point is. Nevertheless, it is crucial to understand the passage because it gives us the idea of the “spiritual blessing” that Paul introduced in 1:3. The blessings are “the hope to which He has called you” (1:18), “the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints,” and “the immeasurable greatness of His power toward us who believe” (1:19).
Interestingly the three blessings identified in this prayer are all referring to the future. Hope in the Bible never refers to something in the present but to something in the future (cf. Romans 8:24). Inheritance denotes something that we expect to receive in the future. God’s power is working presently, but its final result will emerge only in the future. Wait a minute! What about salvation, which the next section (i.e., Ephesians 2:1-10) talks about as the foundation of these blessings? Why does Paul in the prayer talk about three blessings in reference to the future, while he in the next section says that “You have been saved” (2:5, 8)? Is it a discrepancy in the scripture?
Not at all. Here is the explanation. Many people hastily read the sentence, “You have been saved,” and they falsely connote that salvation is completed and finished. However, the sentence is in perfect tense, which indicates that the event began in the past and its result continues in the present. The perfect tense denotes that our salvation has begun but is not yet completed. In other words, it signifies that salvation is something that we need to continue to work out in order to complete and finish it (cf. Philippians 2:12). Thus, the sentence refers to our conversion when we repented of our sins and were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, and, as the result, we were put in the light, having been removed from darkness into light (Acts 26:18; 1Peter 2:9). It means that our journey of salvation began at our baptism but not finished yet, and we have to complete the journey so that the hope may come to fruition, which is eternal irreversible salvation. This is why our salvation is a hope, even if the scripture says that we have been saved.
The flip side of this idea may give us a clearer picture. If we stop walking on the path of salvation, drifting away from it and returning to an ungodly and sinful life, then we have gotten off the road of salvation. This is called apostasy or falling away from God, and the word of God warns Christians of this in many places, such as Joshua 22:16, 22; Jeremiah 2:19; Matthew 24:11-12; Luke 8:13; Acts 20:30; 1 Timothy 4:1; 2 Thessalonians 2:3 (“rebellion” in ESV), 2:11-12; and Hebrews 3:12, 6:4-6, 10:26-29.
Many denominational people insist that God would not take salvation away from those who once believed in Him and were saved by faith. To support their claim, they quote the verses in Ephesians to which we are referring as well as Romans 8:31 and following. They are correct in that God never takes salvation away from men who were saved. Nevertheless, it does not deny the apostasy because the truth about apostasy is that it is not God but people who draw themselves away from God’s hands of power and His arms of love. Apostacy does not come from God but from men, and it is open to anybody. Just as apostasy is open to everyone who is on the journey of salvation, the irrevocable eternal salvation is a hope to him. Even with the belief of many of the denominational believers, it is obvious according to this section of Ephesians that our journey of salvation is not finished. So, anytime anyone of us can get crashed, wrecked, or get off the road if we do not drive as the Lord Jesus directs us.
Paul prayed eagerly for Ephesians to know that they have the hope of salvation and other blessings related to it. Maybe he prayed for this because he knew that there would be apostasy in the church. This prayer should be one of our daily prayers for our brothers and sisters in Christ. So, let’s pray so that no one may fall away or be seduced away from the Church of our Lord and Savior. And let’s remind ourselves that we have salvation as hope, and, therefore, we must not assume that it was completed and stop running toward the finish line, even though the road is narrow and the path is rough (Matthew 7:13-14).